Will the Syrian Civil War be America’s Next Foreign Policy Failure

    Doug Bandow

    Security, Middle East

    New York National Guard Soldiers from Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery, clear a M777 Howitzer, on Fort Drum, Watertown N.Y., May 22nd, 2018. N.Y. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza. Flickr / The U.S. Army

    Washington should drop its foolhardy attempt to reengineer the Middle East and allow countries there to sort out their own problems.

    President Donald Trump is taking the United States into the ethnic-cleansing business. Admittedly, the operation is supposed to be voluntary, or at least non-violent. Washington and Ankara agreed that Kurdish forces in northern Syria should abandon their positions and move out of the city of Manbij. Not because they don’t belong there, but because Turkey doesn’t want them there. And the Erdogan government convinced Washington to act as enforcer.

    Such is the result of the U.S. illegally occupying more than a quarter of Syria and threatening forces allied with the legal government in Damascus. Washington has no constitutional warrant to engage in flagrant aggression, especially when it serves no important let alone vital American interests. If Iran or Russia did the same—both are in Syria at the request of the legitimate authorities—Washington would vilify the offender before the United Nations Security Council and threaten military retaliation. But when the U.S. lawlessly intervenes for no good reason, American officials simply ignore international law.

    Most shocking may be Washington’s flagrant mistreatment of Syrian Kurds, who were America’s strongest allies against the Islamic State. Only last fall the United States stood by as Iraq, Iran, and Turkey punished Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq, after its people voted for independence. Many Kurds were shocked, but for Washington the issue always is what have you done for us lately? American officials were never willing to confront the Baghdad government, just rescued from the Islamic State’s depredations, NATO ally Turkey, or even hated adversary Iran.

    Now the Trump administration has staged a repeat in Syria. Washington’s anti-Assad, anti-ISIS policy long lacked effective local partners. So-called moderate insurgents never amounted to much and often surrendered personnel and weapons to more radical forces. Backing jihadists who would happily kill Americans if given the opportunity proved to be an even worse option for Washington. So in 2015 the United States enlisted the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), to battle the Islamic State. Now the “caliphate” is gone, leaving minimal pockets of Islamic State control that some combination of Syrians, Kurds, Turks, Russians, Iranians, Jordanians, Saudis and others could eliminate.

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